Further urgent steps needed to strengthen customs and police departments, and to tackle narcotics-related corruption, says TI report
Regulation of political party finance in Jamaica "needs to be tightened as soon as possible," argues Professor Trevor Munroe, author of a new report published today by Transparency International (TI), the leading non-governmental organisation devoted to fighting corruption worldwide. Although candidates are obliged to declare election-related expenses within a specified time period, said Munroe, "there is no campaign or political finance law, and therefore no requirement for political parties to have their accounts inspected, to disclose sources of income, or to limit levels of expenditure."
"Corruption has infected public contracting in Jamaica, and has often resulted in decisions being taken on the basis of financial support for a political party rather than on a bid's merit and value for money," said Munroe, Professor of Government and Politics at the University of the West Indies, and a government member of the Jamaican Senate. "Though there have been recent improvements, partisan favours have also contaminated the sale of public assets, appointments to public office, and employment practices in the public sector, particularly on construction and infrastructure projects," he continued.
"Petty corruption, political corruption and narcotics-related corruption in Jamaica are prevalent, undermine the quality of the country's long established democracy, and retard its prospects for economic development," states the National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Jamaica 2003, published today.
The report calls attention to the urgent need to prosecute the drugs "king-pins" involved in narcotics-related corruption, and for greater public education on the harmful effects of political corruption and of corruption in the narcotics sector. According to Munroe, "the Jamaican law enforcement authorities have taken significant steps over the past nine months in chasing the drug king-pins, but much more progress is urgently required".
The report also calls for the elaboration of a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy with a clear timetable for implementation, for legislation on political finance and whistleblower protection, and for adequate internal controls in police and customs departments, including effective disciplinary sanctions to curb corruption.
The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Jamaica 2003 praises progress made by Jamaica on introducing legislation requiring the declaration of assets by Members of Parliament and civil servants, and on introducing access to information legislation. The establishment of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, which began operations in April 2003, was also welcomed.
But, according to Alejandro Salas, TI Programme Officer for the Caribbean, a number of institutions need to be strengthened in Jamaica. "The legislature needs to be given greater independence to call the Prime Minister and Cabinet to account," he said, "and a number of critical pillars of Jamaica's National Integrity System need to be strengthened, in particular the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Resident Magistrates Courts, and the Anti-Narcotics Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force." The TI report also stresses the need to "co-ordinate, harmonise and focus donor support on strengthening democratic governance in building capacity" in these areas.
The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Jamaica 2003, which was made possible with the funding of the UK Government's Department for International Development, states that the judiciary, the Auditor-General, the Contractor General, the National Contracts Commission, the Services Commissions and the Director of Public Prosecutions' office in Jamaica all "enjoy significant formal and some real independence". There is also a vibrant fee media and civil society, states the report, but the media need strengthening through the repeal of the Official Secrets Act, reform of the libel laws, and through the fostering of a culture of investigative journalism.
The report cautions, however, that "the main and critical deficiency in the system is the ineffectualness of checks and balances on the overwhelming dominance of executive-prime ministerial power. This undermines the effective autonomy of all other institutions in the anti-corruption struggle, weakens the national integrity system, infects the citizenry with cynicism and disinclines the public from full engagement in the war against corruption."
The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Jamaica 2003 was prepared by Dr Trevor Munroe, Professor of Government and Politics at the University of the West Indies, under the auspices of a programme developed by the Transparency International Secretariat together with Professor Alan Doig and Stephanie McIvor of the Teesside Business School. The study, which benefited from interviews with a wide range of top officials and prominent personalities from Jamaica's public, private and civil society sectors, is the latest in a series of TI country study reports on national integrity systems.
The National Integrity Systems TI Country Study Report Jamaica 2003 and other country study reports can be downloaded at: www.transparency.org
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